Take 5: Contract conversations headline April’s introduction

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Bettina Hansen, Seattle Times | TNS

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) throws an incomplete pass under pressure from the Green Bay Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Nov. 15, 2018.

By Staff

From NFL contract negotiations to March Madness to the beginning of the MLB regular season: the first week of April provides action from all around the sports world. Russell Wilson demands an extension while Ronald Acuna cashes in. While Carsen Edwards was lighting up the NCAA Tournament, the NCAA made billions off the labor of student athletes. And the AAF collapses after a promising start.

Danger-Russ precedent

This week, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gave the Seahawks a deadline for negotiating a presumably lucrative contract extension. Wilson’s contract with the Seahawks is up at the conclusion of 2019-20 NFL season and he set an April 15 cutoff date for Seattle to complete his contract extension.

Wilson has always kept a low profile with the media and has refrained from making headlines with off-the-field antics, so this self-imposed deadline is a bit out of the ordinary. But Wilson’s demands are consistent with his peers, after star offensive weapons Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell leveraged their way out of their undesirable situations with the teams that drafted them.

Although Brown and Bell’s situations differ slightly from Wilson’s, considering the cooperative relationship between Wilson and the Seahawks, it is noteworthy that Wilson felt the need to set a deadline.

The Seahawks have already had issues with safety Earl Thomas, a core member of the vaunted Legion of Boom defense, who they let walk in free agency after he made a certain gesture toward the Seattle sideline while being carted off the field with an injury in September.

Wilson is the undisputed face of the Seahawks franchise and hasn’t expressed his dissatisfaction until now. While no one truly knows what is going on inside the Seahawks organization, Wilson is setting a precedent for other players — not only can they demand a contract extension, they can demand the timetable for that extension as well.

— Adin Link, Staff Writer

Carsen’s magical March

Carsen Edwards and his No. 3 seed Purdue Boilermakers were defeated by the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers 80-75 in the NCAA South Regional final Saturday night.

Purdue nearly won in regulation, but Virginia forward Mamadi Diakite’s last-second mid-range jumper sent the game to overtime, where the Cavaliers would prevail.

In the loss, Edwards scored 42 points on 10-19 shooting from deep. While watching the game, it felt as though whatever shot he took, no matter the distance or defense, was going in. This wasn’t even Edwards’ first 40-point game in this tournament, after scoring 42 points against No. 6 seed Villanova the previous weekend.

Edwards cemented himself in the history books of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament because of his heroic tournament efforts.

Edwards hit 28 3-pointers through four games in this year’s NCAA tournament, the most 3-pointers ever made by one player in a single NCAA tournament.

Edwards ended his final tournament run with 139 points in four games. Bo Kimble’s 143 points in 1990 is the only total larger than Edwards’ through four games.

Edwards boosted his draft stock for the upcoming NBA draft dramatically and the latest mock draft has Edwards going 48th overall. Don’t be surprised if Edwards gets the call at the end of the first round after his magical March.

— Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

Ronald Acuna splashes big with extension

Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna signed an eight-year, $100 million extension on Tuesday. The deal makes the 21-year-old the youngest ever to sign a contract worth more than $100 million and will keep Acuna under contract until 2026. He also has club options for 2027 and 2028 as well.

This deal is massive, considering that Acuna was signed as a 16-year-old in Venezuela for just $100,000. It also allows Acuna the ability to leave the Braves at the prime age of 28 if he wants to, giving him a plethora of years afterward to play for another team.

Acuna is entering the season after winning the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year. In 111 games last season, he had a .293 batting average, .366 on base percentage and .552 slugging percentage. He also collected 127 hits, 26 home runs and 64 runs batted in.

For the Braves, keeping Acuna under contract is a big risk, but also a win consdiering the length for which he is under contract. The Braves need stars like Acuna if they want to win in the competitive NL East with the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals and New York Mets.

— Dominic Campbell, Staff Writer

The AAF: Gone as quickly as it appeared

The Alliance of American Football burst onto the scene a few months ago surrounded by just as much excitement as skepticism. The league was exciting for football fans, a way to bridge the gap between the Super Bowl and kickoff of a new season.

But observers pointed to other startup leagues, such as the XFL, and believed the AAF would be yet another costly failed experiment. Those skeptics turned out to be right.

After an exciting first few weeks in which games aired on NFL Network every weekend, the league has suspended football operations, and it seems that a permanent shutdown may be imminent.

This suspension of operations was majority owner Tom Dundon’s decision, who provided the league with a large investment in February that was supposed to keep the league viable for multiple seasons.

But Dundon apparently grew worried that the AAF would never evolve into the official development league of the NFL, with the ability to borrow from the rosters of NFL teams in the offseason to provide experience for young players.

With the AAF experiment — which may have been the most immediately successful non-NFL league in recent history — failing, it begs the question of whether another football league can truly survive at a high level in America with players playing full-time. The XFL restart, poised to take place in 2020, may have provided answers some of those questions.

— Andrew Kelly, Staff Writer

NCAA conflict emerges

The NCAA should be the first to understand what student athletes endure every day. But when it published a commercial titled “Student and athlete — a day in the life” days before March Madness commenced, it became clear it had no clue.

The 30-second advertisement with more than 12.5 million views on Twitter follows the life of what the NCAA believes a student athlete does. An actor portraying a student athlete rose out of his bed, participated in class, went to strength and conditioning, hung out with his friends, played his sport, studied and fell asleep with a smile plastered on his face.

Ever since its release, the commercial has faced backlash, including some from former athletes like Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones.

“A brisk run around campus, the energy/attentiveness in class, going to sleep with a smile on your face? This video is NOTHING like being a student athlete,” he wrote on Twitter.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso highlighted the irony in having a paid actor star as an unpaid character.

“Y’all paid the actors in this more than the real Student Athletes,” he tweeted.

It is disappointing to see the NCAA continue misrepresenting student athletes. One would think an organization whose athletes fuel $1 billion in revenue would represent them accurately. The falsehoods this commercial presents is an insult to the 460,000 athletes who play college sports. If the NCAA hoped to send an encouraging message toward potential college athletes, it failed immensely.

The NCAA seems to want to put its reputation ahead of its student athletes. It’ll do anything for some good PR, even if it means unrealistically portraying its athletes.

— Laura Sosovicka, For The Pitt News

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